my cruciferous conundrum

I’ve already told you how much I like soup and that I make it fairly often. And you also know that my kids are pretty good vegetable eaters, but that broccoli happens to be one of their favorites. So then you must have already guessed where this blog entry is heading…

After hurricane Sandy my parents came for a visit and since our grocery store shelves were still alarmingly bare, they brought with them an abundance of supplies to replenish us. They thought of everything those two; milk, bread, cold cuts, asparagus, homemade quiche, wine and of course fresh broccoli. But here’s the thing (and please don’t misinterpret this as a lack of appreciation), they brought enough broccoli to feed my entire neighborhood. Seriously, if broccoli could have been traded for gas I would have had quite the black market enterprise going! We ate a considerable amount of broccoli over the next few days and still seemed to have plenty left to spare. So faced with this cruciferous vegetable conundrum I did what I do best, made soup.

In my mind soup should be something that warms and nurtures you, but it shouldn’t be so laden with calories that you feel guilty enjoying it. I won’t deny that a creamy broccoli and cheddar soup is delicious, but it’s not exactly the kind of healthy food I try to serve my family. I wanted to make a broccoli soup that was light and lovely. Perhaps the kind of soup more suited as an accompaniment to a sandwich rather than a meal in itself. And to really knock my broccoli soups nutritional profile out of the park I decided to add to it the ultimate super food— kale! It didn’t change the flavor but it did change the health benefits. In fact my son, who thought the soup was delicious, didn’t even realize it contained kale until he read this post over my shoulder. “Kale?!?” he screeched, “It had kale in it?!?” “Hummm,” he said shrugging and walking away, “who knew…”

Who knew indeed that a little kale could change my simple broccoli soup from “soup” to “SOUPPPPPPPP!”

Creamy Broccoli & Kale Soup
Adding the kale to this soup really kicked its nutritional value up. So much in fact that I didn’t think twice about using a little half and half to thicken it.

8 cups broccoli florets
4 cups kale leaves, removed from stems and torn
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion (about 2 1/2 cups), diced
1 tbsp. fresh thyme
1 tbsp. garlic powder
8 cups (64 ounces) chicken broth
3/4 cup half and half
1 tbsp. cornstarch
2 tbsp. cold water
grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish

  1. Heat a olive oil over medium high heat in a large dutch oven. Add onion and cook until translucent, stirring frequently.
  2. Add broccoli, kale, thyme, garlic powder, salt and chicken broth. Cover, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes or until vegetables are very tender.
  3. Use an immersion blender (or food processor) to puree the soup until it’s smooth.
  4. Dissolve the cornstarch in the water and slowly whisk into soup, allow to cook uncovered for an additional 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in the half and half and serve topped with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

*adapted from cooking light done right

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Poor Man’s Pasta

There are some nights when I just don’t feel like cooking, the other night was one of those nights. I didn’t want to break down and (gasp!) order out so I took a look in the pantry to see anything jumped out at me. Well there was pasta; but I’m so tired of red sauce and I had a dozen of eggs set to expire; but I just made quiche over the weekend. Hmmm…

What if I mix the pasta and eggs together to make a “poor man’s” carbonara? (Poor man’s because I didn’t have any meat to add— typically bacon or pancetta). I always have plenty of garlic on hand, there were a couple of shallots just waiting to be used and a can of fire roasted tomatoes to add a little color and veggie appeal. Yes, I think this throw together meal was beginning to take shape. But the question still loomed as to whether it would be good or not. But I figured it was worth a try. What’s the worst that could happen… everyone hates it and we all eat pb&j’s instead.

Well good news, the peanut butter never saw the light of day and I now have a tasty new option for those too tired to cook a feast kinda nights!

Poor Man’s Carbonara
This pasta really can be made with whatever you have on hand. I used fuselli, but any shape pasta will work. Fresh tomatoes would work just as well as canned and sweet onion could easily replace the shallots. And if I had some, a little fresh basil sprinkled on top would have been a nice finishing touch.

1/2 lb. pasta of your choice
4 tbsp. olive oil
6 cloves garlic, sliced thin
2 large shallots, sliced thin
1 can fire roasted tomatoes
3-4 eggs, beaten
1/2-3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
reserved pasta water
crushed red pepper, optional

  1. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil and cook pasta according to package directions. (When you put the pasta in the water start making the sauce.)
  2. Heat the oil in a large high sided frying pan, add the sliced shallots and cook for 2-3 minutes over medium-low heat. Add the garlic, and let the garlic and shallots cook until they’re transparent.
  3. Add the diced tomatoes, and season with salt and pepper. Cover and allow everything to cook for 5-6 minutes or until the tomatoes begin to soften.
  4. Drain the pasta but reserve 1 cup of the cooking water. Add the drained pasta to the tomato mixture in the frying pan. Add the beaten eggs into the pan and gently toss the pasta and eggs together, allowing the eggs to cook slowly and coat the pasta.
  5. When the eggs are cooked turn off the heat and add the parmesan cheese and enough reserved pasta water to make a creamy (but not too thin) sauce. Gently toss the pasta to fully combine the all the ingredients.
  6. Serve with crushed red pepper and additional grated cheese. Enjoy!